Artists and crafters sell at weekly show
The Arts and Crafts Show along Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara Sunday brought a diverse group of vendors, small in comparison to its pre-COVID-19 glory days.
Some are crafters on the side of a nine-to-five gig and others create around the clock. Whether they craft for fun or full-time, the show provides a picturesque market.
Across from Chase Palm Park, hand-sized sculptures dance in the sea breeze, suspended by a handmade tree. Some are wearing tutus; others are ready to flamenco.
Sara Mahar calls them “aerials” because there’s too wide of a variety to be called dancers.
Her booth prominently features ballerinas in most of her paintings, and a wide array of dance styles are represented in her aerials.
She started dancing when she was five years old. Now, 65 years later, she still dances.
She has the posture of a dancer, poised but not harsh. She is lean and her arms and neck tall; it isn’t hard to envision her as a ballerina.
Years ago, she was a professional ballerina with the San Diego Ballet for a season.
She pointed to a woman in an orange tutu in one of her paintings.
“That one’s me,” she said.
She painted a piece based on a photo of her former dance troupe. The photo was in National Geographic.
She moved to Santa Barbara when she was 30, and she and her husband, Pete Mahar, opened a dance and theater store called Harlequin’s Theatrical Supply.
They closed their store in May 2018 and retired. Of course, they dabble in props and costumes.
And Mrs. Mahar was able to spend more time painting and sculpting aerials, which she has been making since she was 16.
They take around eight hours to make and require to be completed in phases. They start as wire but are layered with tissue, fabric and glue.
She hangs them in her windows at home and the translucent tissue lets the sun shine through.
She made a lot of aerials during the COVID-19 shutdown. She listens to baroque music, like Mozart or Bach, as she sculpts and paints.
“I’ll get some ideas and I’ll just start painting, and sometimes it’s hard to start. But once you get started, it’s hard to stop,” she said.
She spends about six hours a day creating — except Sundays when she’s selling.
She hadn’t sold anything yet early on in the day Sunday, but she didn’t seem to mind. She sold six aerials last week.
It’s been slower since COVID-19 closed the tourism. She paints small pieces for tourists to be able to take home in their suitcases.
She liked having cruise ships come through. She wonders if the lack of shoppers is the reason some sellers haven’t returned to the market yet.
William Smariga, owner of Salty Brothers Soap Company, also felt COVID-19’s impact on the Arts and Crafts Show.
“It’s definitely not what it was before,” he said. “I had a lot of markets that I was doing, and it kind of threw everything off.”
He opened a storefront at 429 State St. right before the lockdown.
“I try to stay busy, though, so I try not to worry too much,” he said. “I love what I do.”
He and his fiancee recently moved, and they’re expecting a baby in March.
His fiancee sells upcycled clothing in the store, and they bring in local artists. Lately, they have artists come and paint outside while he sells soaps off of a table outside.
Shopping inside is by appointment only, to be safe.
“I’m trying to keep it open as much as I can, but I don’t want to set any hours right now because it’s been so many ups and downs,” he said.
While the world might be a bit crazy, his interest in natural soap products has been constant.
“I feel the effects when I have like certain chemicals, fragrances, fake colors, all that stuff,” he said. “I noticed a difference, and I wanted to do something that had none of that. I wanted to do something that was just 100% natural.”
He sources his ingredients locally. He points to ingredients like the calendula petals in his bath bombs.
He doesn’t seem stressed sitting behind his shelves of soap. He hands out samples and describes his favorite scents.
His booth seems to be one of the most popular ones, attracting both young and old customers. Maybe they can smell the fresh soap even from under their masks.